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Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

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Written by: Alcumus
24th June

You will be aware of recent campaigns and protests around racism and equality. Now is an important time as ever for organisations to explore ways they can be pro-active in eliminating discrimination. We wanted to share some ways employers can promote Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the workplace, found below.

Of course EDI is not just about race and the Equality Act 2010 is testament to this, covering as all other protected characteristics namely race, sex, sexual orientation, gender re-assignment, religion & belief, age, disability, marriage & civil partnership and pregnancy & maternity. Every employer has a responsibility to ensure that workers, or potential workers, are protected from any form of discrimination.

Whilst the Equality Act is the legal argument for EDI, it is very evident and even more so right now, that there is an absolute moral case for building fairer and more inclusive workplaces. Employment should be regardless of identity, background or circumstance and employees should be able to work in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment with equal reward and recognition of work and contribution.

Quite simply workplace discrimination should not be tolerated and all employers should be doing all they can to promote and encourage equality in the workplace; take measures to stop discrimination and ensure that any action or approach in the business environment does not put any particular group at a disadvantage.

What do Equality, Diversity and Inclusion mean?

Equality is about ensuring everybody has an equal opportunity and is not treated differently or discriminated against because of their characteristics.

Diversity is about taking account of the differences between people and groups of people and placing a positive value on those differences.

Inclusion means that a diverse pool of employees are respected and valued, allowing them to reach their full potential while contributing to the success of the business as a whole.

Some examples of discrimination are:

  • Harassment – such as inappropriate jokes, insults, name-calling or exclusion when directed at a person because of their race, colour, sex or gender, sexual orientation
  • Terminating employment because a worker becomes pregnant or not offering them employment because of the pregnancy
  • Introducing measures that discriminate between workers, for example a benefit for married employees that’s not available for people in a civil partnership
  • Paying men and women different amounts (this includes benefits, for example company cars) when they’re doing work of equal value
  • Selecting someone for redundancy because they have a protected characteristic
  • Failing to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled worker
  • Failing to follow proper flexible working processes and/or unfairly rejecting a request for flexible working from a new parent

Adopting and promoting an EDI workplace is crucial and essential in today’s society when businesses need to be competitive in the market, recruit & retain talent and of course maintain a good reputation and ultimately because it is the right thing to do.

EDI should be something that an organisation is pro-active about and not just because of the current media coverage – it should be something which is on going and continually monitored. Management support and training is essential with this and ensuring that you aim to eradicate any form of discrimination swiftly is also crucial. You should not be seen to tolerate bullying, harassment or discrimination in the workplace directly or indirectly.

If you receive an allegation of discrimination you should carry out a thorough investigation and follow your disciplinary procedure in order to take appropriate action. You can also take appropriate action if an employee carries out an act of discrimination outside the workplace if it is deemed to be either connected to their employer or their actions bring the company name into disrepute an example of this would be if an employee cites their place of employment on any social media outlets and they make discriminatory comments on their postings then this could reflect badly on the company. In most cases, acts of discrimination are deemed to be serious enough to acts of gross misconduct and therefore could result in summary dismissal. SafeWorkforce HR Consultants can guide you through this required process.

What can organisations do?

We have some suggestions as to what organisations can consider and implement, and as always if you are a HR client with Alcumus SafeWorkforce, then your designated HR Consultant will be able to support with any discussions you wish to have on this topic.

Induction is an ideal time to educate your new employees as to your organisations stance on equality – consider showing the video on unconscious bias, issue a copy of your Equality Policy and ensure that the employees know that discrimination is not accepted in your workplace. It is not enough however to discuss the policy to induction.

Equality Policies
Ensure that you have Equality Policies in place and that you review and refresh them regularly, ensure that they are communicated to all employees and the policy is readily available for all. Your policy should reflect all areas of employment, including but not limited to recruitment practices, promotion, working hours and pay. You should also make it clear that activities outside of working hours can also be acted upon under this Policy if necessary. It is having such policies in place that will allow you to manage any employee acting in a discriminatory or harassing manner forcefully enough to show that you will not tolerate any such conduct.

You should regularly audit and review EDI in the workplace, you can use your employee data to highlight if there are any barriers evident or if there any specific groups underrepresented in the workforce, which you can then look to redress. You could also consider using an employee survey to allow everyone to have their say and provide a platform for improvement for EDI, for example you can include questions about perception of team culture and perception of equality in the workplace. Results from such surveys could encourage positive changes and adjustments to ensure that you have the much needed EDI workplace.

As well as Equality Policies, making good use of flexible working polices, is a good way to be more inclusive (not just parents, but for neuro-diversity too).

Depending on the size of your business – consider how to train each employee in EDI and make sure your policy is up to date and readily available. There are different ways training can be carried out for example in house training sessions, inclusion of various subjects in team meetings and on-line courses. Alcumus PSM can provide in house Equality & Diversity Training.

Unconscious Bias
You are also responsible to identify and prevent unconscious bias in the workplace.People may not accept that they have any unconscious biases, but in reality the majority of people do, so if your employees don’t think or feel that they are doing anything wrong with how they see or treat people, then how can an employer actually deal with it, especially in the workplace.

What is unconscious bias? This video is an excellent learning tool from the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI). Additionally, Harvard have produced a test which points out your own unconscious biases – these are really interesting tests which anyone can look to complete and really make you think. Consider asking your existing staff to view this video and take the test(s) as a way of support of you promoting an EDI workplace.

Mind your recruitment language – this may seem an obvious issue to highlight but be mindful of language used in all employee communications, not just things such as job adverts, but look at the detail in Job Descriptions, Person Specifications and even pre-prepared interview questions. Careless or stereotyping language, however unintentional, can create a perception of, or even actual, inequality and discrimination. A good example of this would be in a job advert to state that applicants must “be clean shaven” whilst this may seem innocent and an organisation may feel this is important to their “professional image” it could well be discriminatory to certain religious groups and exclude them from applying for the role. There is a very useful tool called Job Lint which checks for gendered language in job adverts, you can click on the link to take you to the relevant webpage.

A final point on recruitment is to consider your use of “culture fit” because perhaps in order to achieve a diverse workforce you should embrace a policy of “culture add” instead. So perhaps think about what areas of diversity you could introduce into the workplace, remembering the more diversity you have in the workplace, the more points of view you will have, more life experiences to draw on which ultimately could lead to more creative problem solving and provide great opportunities for inclusion. Employers can consider removing names from CVs and application forms, to potentially remove any unconscious bias.

Each and every employee should understand their responsibility to their colleagues, clients and customers and their role in ensuring a safe working environment. It is the employers responsibility to ensure this happens and continues to happen.

Whilst we have given you a few suggestions on managing EDI in the Workplace, there is a great deal more information available you can readily access on the internet. The links below are just some examples of websites that you can read and discover more information and ideas on this very current topic.

ACAS – Equality and Discrimination
Equality and Human Rights Commission
GOV.UK – Preventing discrimination

If you have any questions related to the above, the Alcumus PSM HR team are her to help. Talk to one of our experts by emailing [email protected] or call us on 01484 439930.

Alcumus SafeWorkforce specialises in Human Resources (HR) and Health & Safety (H&S) consulting for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Written by Susan Barker, Senior HR Consultant